Last chance to sample Australian grassfed beef specials at Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, and more

Last June, the Australian Embassy launched its Australian Grassfed on the Menu campaign. They partnered with several restaurants in Metro Manila, Cebu, and Davao to create special beef dishes that would only be available for the two-month period of the promotion. And it will end on Aug. 30.

What’s so special about these dishes?

Well, for one, they use only high-grade Australian grassfed beef, which is said to be “healthier” than other cattle meat. Ninety-seven percent of Australian cattle are grown, free range. This means that cows freely graze on fields and mainly eat grass. Some Australian farms even allot one hectare per cow.

This type of beef is not actually new to the Philippines because it holds the lion share of beef imports to the country. According to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA), 40 percent of all imported beef are from Australia. These products mainly go to fast food chains, hotels, and restaurants.

The promo, however, would like to highlight the beef at its best form, serving it like what Filipinos are used to when it comes to premium meat. While most of us are likely to eat more Australian beef than others, it doesn’t have the same brand recall like USDA Prime or Japanese Wagyu.

The Aussie embassy started this promo two years ago. They held special food trails for the media to try out the different dishes. I attended the first one, which is probably the best food crawl I have ever participated in. Because you know, beef. Fast forward to 2017 to another food trail.

They held the food trail for more than a week, covering participating restaurants in Metro Manila. I attended the last trail that listed five restaurants—Dean & Deluca, 22 Prime, Papa Didi’s, Chef Jessie Grill, and Epicurious. It’s basically eating beef from morning to sundown. I mean, best day ever, right?

Like a food crawl veteran (LOL), I was able to power through the whole day of eating beef. I’ve learned how to pace myself and my limits. Like what we usually do at buffet restaurants. And I must say—again—that it was another amazing food crawl.

Here are the five restaurants and the dishes to try:

DEAN & DELUCA, Rockwell, Makati City

SB Roast beef marmalade on crostini topped with pickles (Dean & Deluca)

Roast Beef Marmalade (Sweet, pulled pork-like shredded roasted beef on crunchy crostini topped with pickles.)

SB Braised beef ragu (Dean & Deluca)

Braised Beef Ragu (Slow cooked beef shank ragu ala Milanese with papardelle pasta and tendon puff. Very hearty!)

SB Ribe eye steak with bonne marrow butter annd served with tabbouleh salad (Dean & Deluca)

Ribe Eye Steak (Cooked to your liking, of course, but topped with flaky sea salt, bone marrow butterm and served with tabbouleh salad to balance things out.)

SB Roasted beef short ribs

Roasted Beef Short Ribs (Super tender roasted beef short ribs served with red rice, green shallot kimchi, and jalapeño puree.)

SB Beef hash

Natural Beef Hash (Heirloom potatoes, bell peppers, onion, topped with two poached eggs, slowly braised beef chunks, chopped tomato, basil pesto, and Parmesan cheese.)

22 PRIME, Discovery Suites, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Steak and tomato salad (22 Prime)

Steak and Tomato Salad (Grilled sake marinated skirt steak with heirloom tomatoes, basil, feta cheese, and extra virgin olive oil. My kind of salad.)

SB Oven braised short ribs with seaweed potato puree and wilted garlic spinach (22 Prime)

Oven Braised Short Ribs (Another super tender slow cooked boneless short ribs with seaweed potato purée and wilted garlic spinach)

SB Sous vide striploin with mushroom ragout, asparagus, poached egg, and sambal hollandaise sauce (22 Prime)

Sous Vide Striploin (Served with roasted potatoes, mushroom ragout, asparagus, and sambal hollandaise sauce)

PAPA DIDDI’S, Sapphire Bloc, Ortigas Center, Pasig City

SB Pancit Batil Patung

Pancit Batil Patung (Fresh linguini noodles cooked in beef stock then topped with poached egg, cabbage, onions, and carrots, served with extra stoup, fresh onions, chili, and soy sauce on the side)

SB Pappa Diddi's fusion burger with ube buns

Papa Diddi’s Fusion Burger (Beef patty with banana blossom patty, pineapple ring, sunny side up egg, pickles, lettuce, kesong puti, and honey mustard sauce with your choice of ube, malunggay, or pandan bun)

CHEF JESSIE GRILL, The Grove by Rockwell, Brgy. Ugong, Pasig City

SB Charcoal grilled oyster blade with fries and mesclun greens (Chef Jessie Grill)

Oyster Blade Steak (Cooked in a charcoal grill oven, it is served in mustard sauce with mesclun greens and french fries on the side)

SB Charcoal grilled beef striploin with grilled leeks and potato wedges (Chef Jessie Grill)

Striploin Steak (Served with grilled leeks, potatoes, and gravy)

SB Slow roast beef cheeks served with poutine and sauteed spinach (Chef Jessie Grill)

Slow Roast Beef Cheeks (Served with poutine and sautéed spinach)

EPICURIOUS, Shangri-la Plaza, Mandaluyong City

SB Beef fajitas with salsa and sour cream (Epicurious)

Beef Fajitas (Beef strips sautéed with bell peppers, onions, and young corn served with soft tortillas, salsa, and sour cream)

SB Fettuccine beef stroganoff (Epicurious)

Fettucine Stroganoff (Fettucine pasta in creamy beef and mushroom sauce served with garlic bread)

SB Roast beef with mushroom sauce

Roast Beef with Mushroom Sauce (Roast beef served with roasted vegetables and enoki mushroom, rice, and mushroom gravy)

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Find the complete list of restaurants on Facebook/Australia in the Philippines / Twitter @AusAmbPH / #TrueAussieBeefPH

Genki Sushi opens new branch and adds new items on its menu

Popular for its sushi delivery system, Genki Sushi is quickly becoming a favorite among sushi-loving Filipinos. And I see why.

The Japanese restaurant chain recently opened its fourth branch at SM Aura Premier in Bonifacio Global City, proving that they are doing good business in the country. Managed locally by the Mother Spice Group, Genki Sushi is one of its brands that is growing significantly.

Mother Spice Group also operates Mango Tree, Mango Tree Bistro, and Cocina Peruvia.

SB Genki Sushi's Kousoku Express Train System delivers food straight to your table
Genki Sushi’s Kousoku Express Train System delivers food straight to your table. On board is one of the resto’s newest dishes, coconut shrimps.

Genki Sushi was founded in Japan in 1968 by Japanese sushi chef Fumio Saito, who created the concept of kaiten sushi, where sushi is served by conveyor belt. Today, the chain has grown exponentially, with branches across the globe.

The novelty of its service is what’s keeping people coming back to the restaurant. The eatery employs the Kousoku Express Train System or its toy-like train delivery system. Inspired by the Shinkansen (Japanese bullet train), the tracks run from the kitchen to the tables.

SB Crispy salmon skin strips
Crispy salmon skin strips

Customers order via tablet computers and the food is delivered by a small train. It’s very entertaining to watch, especially to kids…like me.

But probably the resto’s main selling point is its food. Genki Sushi serves quality food, from sushi to donburi to desserts.

According to Genki Sushi Philippines brand manager DJ Atienza, the local franchise gets a visit from the mother ship quarterly. They ensure the quality of the products and the service of the restaurant. Most of the ingredients the local shops get are from Japan, too.

SB Trio of gunkanmaki sushi
A trio of gunkanmaki sushi (kanikama salad, spicy tuna, and tuna salad)

“Even the sauces are from Japan to make it consistent like the shoyu (soy sauce) and also the pickled ginger and green tea. We are not allowed to use local ingredients unless they approve it,” he said.

Along with the opening of the new branch, the sushi resto also launched new items on its menu.

These new dishes include: coconut shrimps (like shrimp tempura but with panko bread crumbs and coconut flakes), kushi-age (small basket of fried seafood and vegetables), crispy salmon skin strips, caramel mochi, and vanilla and strawberry mille crepes.

They are also now offering sushi plates of three. Regular orders usually have two pieces in a plate but now, people can order three different sushi in one plate. They offer a trio of salmon nigiri sushi (regular salmon, seared with pollock roe, and seared with black pepper) and a trio of gunkanmaki sushi (spicy tuna, tuna salad, and kanikama salad).

SB Caramel mochi
Caramel mochi with creme brulee-like torched sugar

And if you haven’t tried its Japanese cheesecake, you should. It’s not the fluffy cotton cheesecake kind but a soft delicate, light, and not-so-sweet cheesecake which I think is the perfect ending to a sushi meal.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Facebook/GenkiSuhsiPhilippines and Instagram @genkisushiph

Myron’s: Steak perfected

 

I love steak. I like it medium and seasoned perfectly with salt and pepper. I like it with a side of roasted vegetables and rice or potatoes. Sauces are optional because you don’t need a sauce with a good steak.

I remember eating my first wagyu (or some kind of high grade Japanese beef) at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati years back and it was so good. Every bite was like heaven in my mouth.

Then one of the first steak houses I ever dined in was Myron’s Steak, Ribs and Seafood at Power Plant mall in Rockwell. This was 10 years ago (I think) and the steak house was pretty new then but they served good steak.

Since then, I have consumed many more steaks—bad, okay, good, great—but those two first experiences for me are the most memorable and delicious.

SB Cappuccino of mushroom soup
Cappucino of Mushroom

A little over a week ago, I was able to go back to Myron’s after many years. The restaurant has a new home, at the 6th floor of The Ascott Residences in Makati, moving from Greenbelt 5. The restaurant now serves as the property’s breakfast restaurant and they basically operate Ascott’s food and beverage (F&B) needs.

This is a big challenge for owners Ramon and Monica Eugenio considering that they started in food business at a small stall at Salcedo’s weekend market. Both experienced chefs, the couple started selling their Angus roast beef at Salcedo market in 2005. A year later, they had an opportunity to open their first restaurant at Power Plant mall. The couple partnered with friend and kitchen colleague Melanio Resuma to kick start the steak house.

SB Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese
Fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese

After 11 years of operations, the restaurant has grown significantly and turned into a company running several restaurants including The Flying Pan, Franco’s, and Miguelito’s.

“As you can see it’s a bigger opportunity for us. I think it’s the biggest challenge for Monique and I. We started at the Saturday market and then after 10 years we were able to move from a stall in Salcedo to running the F&B department of one of the major players in Makati,” Ramon said.

One of the factors why Myron’s have lasted this long is because of a loyal following. Another is simply because they make good food.

For starters, the restaurant offers a variety of appetizers but the must tries are the caesar salad that’s freshly made beside your table and the delicious cappuccino of mushroom. It’s a mushroom soup that is creamy and foamy, giving that distinct cappuccino texture. The fresh mushroom flavors are there, not the kind you get in a can. It’s also adorably served in a coffee cup with a thin bread stick on the side.

SB Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce
Tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce

If you’re a pasta lover, try the fusilli with grilled chicken and blue cheese. Yes, I know, blue cheese is notoriously pungent but this dish has no moldy aroma, whatsoever. It’s a surprisingly light pasta for a creamy dish and the grilled chicken complements it very well.

For people trying to stay away from carbs and want to eat “healthy,” try the tiger prawn and US sea scallops with roasted pumpkin and scallion sauce. I love seafood so this dish pleased me a lot, gastronomically speaking. The huge grilled tiger prawn has perfect charred sides and the scallops beautifully seared—both protein are very tender and well seasoned. The roasted pumpkin adds a smoky sweetness to the dish. All of the components are tied together by a creamy and delicate scallion sauce.

For the main event, Myron’s signature steak was served, called The President. It’s a US ribeye cooked medium and was served already sliced. It has a pink Himalayan salt topping and served with a side of steamed French beans. The sear was perfect and the seasoning was on point. I get why this steak is popular dish. This is best eaten with Myron’s rice, which is like fried rice but using steak drippings.

SB The President ribeye steak
‘The President’ ribeye steak

Although this was not the steak that I ate back then, it still brought back memories. Also, The President doesn’t need any sauce because it’s perfect as it is.

We ended the meal with an intricately plated chocolate cake. Ramon said that their pastry chef was formerly from Mandarin Oriental so the execution was very hotel-y. It was nice but I would have preferred the bread pudding.

The steak house is the living legacy of the man behind the name. Monica’s dad, Myron Papa is a big part of the concept when they envisioned the restaurant over a decade ago. The couple described the late stockbroker as someone who loved to entertain and feed people.

“He loved to entertain people with only the best food and wine,” recalled Monica. “When it came to get-togethers at home, he was very conscious about the quality of food being served, and very generous with the servings. You go home happy and well fed after a date with Myron.”

SB The Marianito
Marianito cocktail

This father’s day, Myron’s will celebrate with an addition to its bar menu. A new signature cocktail will be launched on June 18. Called the Marianito, it’s a classic Spanish cocktail made of vermouth, gin, campari, and angostura bitters.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Myron’s, 6th floor The Ascott Residences, Makati City / +632 755 8898 / reservations@myronsph.com / Facebook and Instagram @myrons_ph

Baguio’s secret garden restaurant

It’s not located near the toruist-y areas nor well advertised. It’s so exclusive, the chef only accepts 30 customers at a time to dine in its beautiful garden restaurant setting. But the thing is, dining at this restaurant won’t cost you an arm and a leg, unless you choose the fine dining option (by reservation only). It’s the best kind of eatery—no waiting in line, no boisterous crowd, no bad food.

Mother’s Garden restaurant is tucked in a residential area on Quezon Hill. The narrow streets and steep roads have kept this place practically unknown. According to its owner, chef Therese Jison, most of her customers are repeaters, people who have grown to love her food and the restaurant.

View from the restaurant
View of the city from the restaurant

“I wouldn’t accept more than 30 people, we close the gate. I want to maintain the exclusivity of the place. Being crowded destroys the reason why people come to us because they know it’s a relaxed atmosphere, and you can even spend the whole day here. Sometimes I feel bad that I have to turn down people but I have to maintain the reason people come here,” she explains.

The atmosphere is indeed relaxing. The main dining area is fitted with typical iron and glass garden furniture, placed on a gravel floor. The space is surrounded by plants and animals, too, like the birds in the aviary and friendly dogs scurrying about. The rose garden is its al fresco dining area with two tables surrounded by rose plants and overlooking a view of the city. The fine dining section is located on the second floor, furnished with antique furniture originally from the owner’s family hacienda.

Mother's Garden's fine dining section
The fine dining section is fitted with antique furniture from chef Jison’s family hacienda

Since it’s situated on the side of the hill, the property goes down deep, about four floors down, divided into sections and levels like the herb garden, salad garden, citrus garden, an Igorot garden, the pottery/playground area, the animal cages, and a cottage exclusive to family and friends.

Apart from its charming setting, the food is the reason why people come back. The food here is not just delicious but actually good for you because the restaurant uses mostly organic ingredients that the chef grows herself in the garden. So expect pesticide free vegetables, hormone free meat, and GMO free fruits.

Chef Jison took up courses at the Culinary Institute of America and Le Cordon Bleu in Paris, France. She previously owned two boats, rented out by different organizations, where she also worked as executive chef. She is now settled in at Mother’s Garden with her partner Heinrich Maulbecker, the former general manager of The Manor and the Hyatt.

Welcome cold cuts, champagne, and fresh strawberries
Welcome cocktail: assorted cold cuts, champagne, and strawberries and cream

According to chef Jison, she put up this place to create a small oasis in a city that condones bad urban development. While some greenery on the mountains still remain untouched, most areas in the city have been lost to over development. The restaurant reminds chef Jison of their family hacienda in Negros and her father’s family’s rice farm in Nueva Ecija. Coming from a family of planters, growing an organic garden came naturally to her.

Through the help of organic agriculturist Dr. Jose Balaoing, chef Jison was able to put up a flourishing garden. She has even extended her organic practices to her gardener Roy, who converted their own farm into an organic one, assisted by chef Jison. His farm, located at the lower areas of Benguet where more produce and livestock flourish, is the main source of ingredients for the restaurant.

Chef Therese Jison shows her salad garden
Chef Therese Jison shows her salad garden

“The chicken don’t grow very well in Baguio that’s why we grow our chicken and ducks at lower levels. The pigs are not fat because we make them run around. We feed them with grass and vegetable leftovers,” she says. “It takes a long time to plant that is why most commercial farmers use hormones to make them grow fast. Our food takes time to grow.”

During our three-day visit, chef Jison served us unforgettable meals that are both healthy and delicious. She first welcomed us with cocktails, a glass of champagne, fresh organic strawberries with cream, sardines on arugula, pear wrapped in ham, and homemade sun dried tomatoes. At dinner, she served fresh Greek salad, incredibly rich lentil soup with homemade chorizo, organic steak with burgundy sauce served with mashed potatoes and carrots, and this were all paired with a glass of Musso, a Spanish organic red wine.

Lentil soup with homemade chorizo
Lentil soup with homemade chorizo

The next day the breakfast is composed of fresh fruits, strawberries and cream, a tub of kesong puti (fresh cheese) with fresh herbs, fluffy pancake, bacon, and homemade sausage. I accompanied my breakfast with turmeric tea since I refrain from drinking coffee as much as possible.

After breakfast she toured us in her garden. She has an herb garden that grows lavender that blooms (very rare in the country), fennel, dill, rosemary, basil, etc. The salad garden is where hard to grow produce thrive like celery, rhubarb, kale, radish, and different kinds of lettuce.

Herb garden
Herb garden

Raspberry also thrive in her garden as well as lemons that bear huge lemons. Chef Jison’s garden is also home to several animals including a ram (named Hansel), pot bellied pigs, miniature chicken, rabbits, an injured eagle, wild hogs, and pigs.

For lunch, we picked from the regular menu. The pasta dishes are highly recommended like the Mediterranean chicken on a bed of spaghetti in red sauce with zucchini; and also the piccata milanese, fried pork cutlets served on a bed of spaghetti neapolitana. We paired the pasta with freshly squeezed lemonade made from lemons picked from the garden.

Piccata milanese
Piccata milanese, fried pork cutlets on a bed of spaghetti neapolitana

Chef Jison says that the restaurant changes its menu based on the available ingredients of the season—cold and wet season (July to October), cold and dry season (November to February), and summer (March to June). So expect different dishes every season.

Dinner that night was extra special, the chef cooked lechon de leche in her Greek oven. The roasted organic pig was less fatty and fall-off-the-bone meat tender. She cooked it Bacolod style, using lemon grass and pandan to flavor the pig. The lechon was accompanied by red rice, pinaputok na hito, flavorful pho, and crispy Thai spring rolls. We finished the meal with leche flan served on top of a sesame seed brittle disc.

Organic lechon de leche
Organic lechon de leche

The next morning, before leaving, we had our final breakfast and one of the best meals of the trip. Organically grown daing na bangus from San Juan in La Union, homemade longganisa, scrambled egg, and garlic red rice. We ended the meal on a sweet note with cubes of fresh mango.

Chef Jison ultimately hopes that someday, more farmers would choose the organic ways and more people consume organic food. “I’m doing something I like. Even my son would come in and eat. I’m happy because he’s not going to get sick. I am teaching the next generation how important this is. The delight of the person eating it, it’s worth giving them something organic.”

Breakfast combo--homemade longganisa, garlic red rice, and scrambled eggs
Breakfast combo–homemade longganisa, garlic red rice, and scrambled eggs

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Mother’s Garden, Upper Fairview Road, Quezon Hill Proper, Baguio City / +6374 424 3702, +63917 8693623, +63921 9776027 / Facebook/mothersgardenbaguiocity

8 Romantic restaurants for that perfect date

New restaurants opening in the metro tend to keep their interiors simple and practically the same—concrete floors, mural walls, wood tables, steel chairs, and bulb light fixtures. The industrial and minimalist look is pleasing enough but quite frankly unromantic. Only a handful of restaurants go the extra mile to make its space unique and beautiful. But it’s not only the interiors that matter, it’s the location, too.

I list down eight of the most beautiful and romantic restaurants in Metro Manila for your date this Valentine’s Day. And these restaurants have good food to boot.

rustic-mornings
Photo credit: Facebook/RusticMornings

1. Rustic Mornings by Isabelo, Marikina

Weathered furniture and country-style knick-knack make this one of the most Instagrammable restaurants in the metro. The shabby chic interiors and al fresco dining area are so charming they are perfect for a romantic brunch or lunch. The restaurant serves delicious breakfast food

No. 11 I. Mendoza St. San Roque, Marikina City / +632 425 8610 / Facebook/RusticMornings

2. Harbor View, Manila

This restaurant may not have the most beautiful interior on the list but it has the most beautiful view. Located at the breakwater of Manila Bay, giving its diners front seats to the world-famous sunset. It serves fresh seafood and Filipino cuisine.

South Dr. Ermita, Manila (beside Manila Ocean Park) / +632 710 0060

cafe-juanita
Photo credit: Facebook/cafe.juanita.ph

3. Cafe Juanita, Pasig

I’m not a real Pasigueño if this iconic restaurant did not make the list. Its eclectic decors and interiors are what make this restaurant stand out from the rest. The atmosphere it creates is undeniably romantic. Its delicious Filipino and Asian food is the main reason why it lasted for so many years.

No. 19 West Capito Dr., Kapitolyo, Pasig City / +632 632 0357 / Facebook/cafe.juanita.ph

casa-roces
Photo credit: Facebook/casarocesphils

4. Casa Roces, Manila

This old house-turned restaurant has a lot of history. Located in San Miguel or Malacañan compound, the restaurant’s old interior and history are what make dining here much more interesting. Enjoy the Spanish-Filipino fare that do not disappoint.

1153 JP Laurel cor Aguado St. San Miguel, Manila / +632 708 4020 / Facebook/casarocesphils

ninyo-fusion-cuisine-and-wine-lounge
Photo credit: Facebook/NinyoFusionCuisine&WineLounge

5. Ninyo Fusion Cuisine & Wine Lounge, Quezon City

Dine in your own cabana with flowy white fabric curtains and by candle light. Enjoy its modern international cuisine and selection of wine. What can be more romantic than that?

66 Esteban Abada St. Loyola Heights, Quezon City / +632 426 0301 ? / Facebook

flame

6. Flame, Makati

Dine 16 floors up with the Makati skyline as your backdrop. The beautiful interiors, delicious fusion European-Asian cuisine, and the breathtaking views are the perfect ingredients for a romantic date.

16th floor, Discovery Primea, 6749 Ayala Ave., Makati City / +632 955 8888 / Website

blackbird
Photo credit: Facebook/BlackbirdAtTheNielsonTower

7. Blackbird, Makati

This fine-dining restaurant has been making waves since it opened. It is housed at the beautiful art deco Nielson Tower building that used to be an airport terminal and control tower. Its history is already romantic, augmented by the beautiful greenery around the building creating an illusion of a rural setting. Its European and Asian menu is also top notch.

Ayala Triangle Walkways, Makati / +632 828 4888 / Facebook

champagne-room-0010-v2-1280x500
Photo credit: manila-hotel.com.ph

8. Champagne Room, Manila

Speaking about iconic, this restaurant is probably the most iconic romantic spot in the metro. Its French-inspired interior—those beautiful crystal palm trees—is what made this restaurant a symbol of romantic Manila.

The Manila Hotel, One Rizal Park, Manila / +632 527 0011 / Website

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Denny’s diner opens in Manila

Most agree that breakfast is the best meal of the day. I agree, too. I wonder if it’s because the body is just so hungry that it craves for any food after hours of sleep? It boils down to the classic Filipino expression: “Masarap ba talaga o gutom lang ako?” (“Is it really delicious or am I just hungry?”)

Maybe.

Actually, breakfast food is just really that good. Pancakes are amazing buttery, soft, and fluffy golden discs made specially delicious by maple syrup. Eggs are wonderful, creamy, and extremely nutritious. And, one word: bacon. I mean c’mon, bacon is enough reason to eat breakfast, all day, all night. Bacon is love, bacon is life.

sb-choco-overload-peanut-butter-pancake-plate
Choco Overload Peanut Butter Pancake Plate (P395)

Nobody loves breakfast food than Americans and Filipinos. Diners, the classic US eateries located everywhere in the country, serve up breakfast any time of the day and night. Local tapsihan, on the other hand, gives Filipinos access to their favorite silog meals, day and night, too. Any restaurant that serve both these American and Filipino classics is good in my book.

So when Denny’s announced it will be opening its first Manila branch, Filipinos got really excited. Well, we get excited with any new restaurant putting up shop here. I mean after watching various movies and TV shows about food around the world—from Maine lobster rolls to Japanese ramen—we get more and more curious of what else is out there. Filipinos are lucky enough that some international restaurants open here on our humble island nation. My dream is actually to go around different countries like the US and eat everything I have seen on TV.

Denny’s, “America’s diner” is probably the most successful diner chain in the US. With over 1,700 restaurants across the globe, Denny’s is famous for its classic American diner fare. What makes this diner chain even more successful is that it is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. It’s the kind of diner that is always open to everybody including night owls, graveyard shift workers, and gluttonous people who can’t stop eating.

sb-chicken-cranberry-apple-salad
Chicken Cranberry Apple Salad (P395)

Denny’s Philippines brings in 90 percent of its original menu to the Philippines including its bestselling Grand Slam platter, which contains its famous buttermilk pancakes, bacon, sausages, and eggs. Speaking of pancakes, the diner also serves sweet flavored pancakes including cream cheese and cinnamon, choco overload peanut butter, banana pecan, and blueberry pancake. The choco overload peanut butter pancakes are really good. This sweet combination never fails.

Don’t expect just breakfast food here because its menu is mix of different classic American fare. For starters, I tried the Chicken Cranberry Salad—mixed greens, grilled seasoned chicken breast, apple slices, glazed pecans, and dried cranberries, tossed in honey balsamic vinaigrette. This salad is a winner, with the glazed pecans and dried cranberries adding crunchy, sweet, and chewy texture to the salad.

I was also able to try the Bourbon BBQ Bacon Burger, layers of beef patty, sauteed mushrooms and onions, cheddar cheese, bacon, lettuce, tomato, red onion, and sweet bourbon sauce sandwiched between a cheddar bun. The patty was a bit bland for me, so you need a complete bite every time.

sb-bourbon-bbq-burger
Bourbo

What makes Denny’s Philippines truly local is the Filipino breakfast dishes included in its menu like the crispy bangus belly, bistek tagalog, chicken and pork adobo, Lucban longganisa, beef tapa, and pork tocino all served with garlic rice and egg.

Since this is a diner, a must try is the milk shake. I’m a sucker for milk shakes. The strawberry milk shake is the perfect combination of fruity and creamy, in a satisfying thick consistency. I can forgo a dessert if I have a glass of milk shake. But if you’re the kind who needs dessert after meals, then Denny’s serves amazing desserts, too. The banoffee pie and caramel apple crisp are good options.

sb-caramel-apple-crisp
Caramel Apple Pie Crisp (P295)

“We’re proud to have the opportunity to bring Denny’s to the Philippines and provide local families with diner favorites that resonate with guests around the world. Manila will finally have a taste of a real American diner that serves a menu of breakfast favorites and American comfort food, all day, every day,” says Jean Paul Manuud, The Bistro Group president and COO. The local company acquired the band and adds Denny’s to its list of American restaurants it operates like TGIFridays, Texas Roadhouse, among others.

Denny’s Philippines Uptown Parade, BGC, Taguig City / Facebook/Denny’sPhilippines / http://www.dennys.com.ph

Is this the best Chinese restaurant in Manila?

Well, the All China Federation thinks so. Recently Marco Polo Manila’s Lung Hin Cantonese restaurant received the prestigious Golden Horse Award at the 16th China Hotel Industry Golden Horse Awards Gala. The award is given to the best Chinese restaurants outside China. That says a lot.

tofu and seaweed salad
Deep-fried tofu and seaweed salad

Knowing Filipinos, we know good Chinese food. This oriental cuisine is in fact, comfort food to Filipinos. I grew up dining at Chinese restaurants, from Cubao to Binondo, which is the oldest Chinatown in the world. It is the go-to place for authentic and good Chinese fare. Two of my favorite eateries are Toho Food Center and Wai Ying Fastfood, both hole-in-the-wall restaurants.

Basically, back then, you only have two choices when dining out—Filipino or Chinese. There were few choices then unlike now; it’s hard to pick where to eat because of the bajillion restaurants out there. And not just restaurants, award-winning restaurants.

fried beancurd skin and leek rolls
Fried beancurd skin and leek rolls

If you love Chinese food, specifically Cantonese cuisine, you should try Lung Hin.

Aside from traditional dishes, the resto serves up modern and exquisitely done Cantonese cuisine. Located on the 44th floor of Marco Polo Ortigas, it is Chinese dining at its finest. Recently, the restaurant introduced its newest executive chef, Leung “Ken” Chi Kwan. Che Ken is from Hong Kong and specializes in Cantonese cuisine.

Some of the must-try dishes of the restaurant are: the light but very flavorful deep fried tofu with seaweed salad. The salad is made up of cubes of fried tofu, thin slices of seaweed, shredded cabbage, taro, carrot, and then dressed with a nutty sesame dressing. The fried beancurd skin and leek rolls, on the other hand, is a crunchy appetizer with minced pork and garlic chives.

fookian misua
Fookian misua

For the mains, the traditional pork spareribs is served with a special black vinegar sauce. The crystal prawns with broccoli is a light dish for health-conscious diners. One of my favorites is the Fookian misua, soft and thin misua noodles with veggies , egg, and meat. It’s not your typical pancit because it doesn’t look like it. It doesn’t have the typical dark soy color, but has this almost white sauce. Despite its dull color, it is very flavorful.

Read my Manila Bulletin Lifestyle article here.

Marco Polo Ortigas Manila, Meralco Ave. and Sapphire Street, Ortigas Center, Pasig City / www.marcopolohotels.com / Facebook.com/MarcoPoloOrtigasManila / Twitter and Instagram @MarcoPoloManila

Best shawarma in Manila?

Okay, I haven’t really been going around Metro Manila and taking a bite of every shawarma I see but the last shawarma I had was pretty damn good. I don’t claim it’s the best but in terms of quality, this small restaurant in BGC makes a good wrap statement.

Shawarma is very popular here, thus, very common. It’s widely available in food markets, malls, and even train stations. What makes it so popular is its convenience—quick and easy to-go meal.

This Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines staple is basically meat (beef, chicken, or lamb), marinated in special spices, cooked in a vertical rotisserie, and then wrapped in pita bread. Fresh vegetables like tomatoes, onions, and cucumber are added to the meat pile and drizzled with special sauces (usually yogurt-based sauces).

ebeneezers counter
Ebeneezers counter and salad bar

Ebeneezers is one of the new eateries in the BGC business hub. The restaurant elevates the humble shawarma roll into a gourmet meal. It uses prime Angus beef, organic chicken, and halal Moroccan lamb in its tasty wraps. Most of the vegetable it uses are also organic and sourced from small, sustainable farms.

Its head chef is Tom Hines, one of the men behind Ebeneezer’s Hong Kong. This is not a franchise of the popular HK eatery, however.

Aside from the special meats, it also serves vegetarian dishes like fresh vegetable salad from the salad bar and falafal (mashed chick peas with special spices, formed into patties then fried). Customers can also have the option of having the premium meats and falafal over rice pilaf.

ebeneezers organic chicken
Organic chicken on fluffy rice pilaf

Personally, I like the lamb shawarma. Marinated in Moroccan spices, the lamb is perfectly tender and full of flavor. The organic chicken is a must try, too. The restaurant also has special house-made sauces with varying level of spiciness from no heat to super spicy.

What’s unique about Ebeneezers is it is divided into two sections. The restaurant downstairs and the “naughty room” upstairs. A small bar where people can unwind and just chill. This part offer signature cocktails and good bar chow. Must tries are the aged (45 days) beef burger, lamb burger, and the crazy sinful fried organic chicken skins.

Read my Manila Bulletin article here.

Ebeneezers is located at the ground floor of Net Quad Bldg, on 4th St. corner 30th St., Bonifacio Global City, Taguig City. +63 917 5694429 / Facebook.com/ebeneezersmnl / IG: @ebeneezersmnl